Ribbon cutting at William and Carol Ouchi High School

January 12, 2010

By Paul Feinberg

With the cutting of a ribbon, UCLA Anderson Professor William Ouchi and his wife Carol concluded an emotional January 14th ceremony, which included politician's speeches and cheerleader's back flips, and officially opened the newly-built school that bears their name.

The William and Carol Ouchi High School opened in 2006 in a temporary location, but now occupies a site that was once the headquarters of the WAVE newspaper group. The school, part of the Alliance College-Ready Public Schools charter group, shares the location with the Christine O'Donovan Middle Academy and is located in South Los Angeles, just minutes from the city's Baldwin Hills shopping district.

Ouchi, whose latest book is "The Secret of T.S.L.," has dedicated the last decade or so to educational reform. His findings, chronicled in his new book and his prior book "Making Schools Work," advocate for (among other things) greater autonomy for school principals and a reduction in the number of students that teachers oversee at any given time (T.S.L. stands for Total Student Load). The findings are also part of the core principles adopted by the Alliance charter schools and the school naming stands as testament to his dedication to improving public education and the extraordinary results his reforms produce when put into practice.

Ouchi High School, nicknamed the Lions, was recognized as a California Distinguished School in 2009, the first year it was eligible for the state's highest academic honor. In 2010, the school graduates its first senior class anticipating 100% graduation with greater than 90% of the students moving on to four year colleges and universities.

The ribbon cutting was attended by Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks (whose district is home to Ouchi High), California State Superintendent of Schools Jack O'Connell, Los Angeles Unified School Board President Monica Garcia, and former mayor and UCLA Anderson faculty member Richard Riordan. The Ouchis were honored for their efforts to improve education and their commitment that every student be given the opportunity to learn and maximize their potential. UCLA Anderson School Dean Judy D. Olian was among the many dignitaries in attendance and paying tribute to the Ouchis.

Highlighting the morning were the passionate words of Ouchi High senior and class president Diana Gamez, who spoke eloquently of her past apathy towards education and her doubts about what she would find when she started at Ouchi High as a freshman. "Now I dream of attending UC Santa Barbara," Gamez - who earned a standing ovation - said. "Learning is enjoyable and inspiring." Commenting on the school rules she at first resisted, Gamez said, "I've come to rely on the rules. We have all become accustomed to 'the Ouchi way.'"

Once at the podium, Ouchi spoke of the value of opportunity. He shared the immigrant stories of both his grandmother and his father-in-law, stirring tales of how through hard work and opportunity anything is possible. Though the stories were rooted in the past, they carried a contemporary message and served as a reminder that no matter what ones background is or where one comes from, in America, if one works hard enough one can succeed.

"This is the best feeling," Ouchi said, "to see students full of excitement and energy in a place where 100 percent of them will graduate. They now have a world of opportunity and futures that are bright. I hope that some of them end up at UCLA and someday make it to our MBA program. Young people are crucial to a vital society."

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